Colorado. The word conjures images of the majestic Rocky Mountains and herds of Elk roaming freely … thoughts of relaxing in the outdoors … and feelings of awe that we have been blessed by God with such beauty.
Peaceful, isn’t it? In September 2013, however, the region of Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties was anything but peaceful. Heavy rains prompted flash-floods across some 2,000 square miles, destroying or damaging more than 7,000 houses. Miles of roadways were gone.
My alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I hit snooze. It was still dark outside and I wondered how on earth I would get these teenage girls up and out the door by 5:45 a.m. I flipped on the light after warning them with a 3-2-1 count and then I ran to get in line for the bathroom we shared with about 20 other females in the area to which we’d been assigned in a church.
Thankfully, I had to remind them only once to get up. They knew they had to get to breakfast in time to eat and pack their lunches before heading out to our job sites. The earlier we left, the sooner we could finish before temperatures became unbearable.
This was our morning routine during a youth mission trip to McColl, South Carolina, where about 20 adults and 60 teenagers volunteered to repair broken homes and, while doing so, also fix some broken hearts.
This trip, taken in late June, was my first mission trip with my two younger daughters, who are 16 and 14. I had received approval to use Diakon’s Love of Thy Neighbor fund to assist with the trip; the fund provided extra paid vacation days, as well as some grant money to use toward travel expenses.
After reading stories from co-workers who did mission work and learning how much they helped others beyond what we do during our typical work days, I wanted to do the same thing.
(Part 1 of this story is posted here)
As I boarded the flight to Tanzania and an orphanage there, I knew all of us—three representatives of Diakon Youth Services—were eager and excited to experience a part of the world new to us, while also—in some small way—helping children in need, just as we do daily in our work within Diakon.
The experience was one we will never forget—one we continue to process.
As I write this, wrapped in a Massai blanket successfully bartered for at the market yesterday in Mto wa Mbu, I am drinking strong Tanzanian coffee and listening to the early-morning chirping of birds outside the window mixed with the soft sounds of a light rain.
As the sun continues to rise, the darkness of night giving way to a pallet of natural colors that seem to be unique to this particular part of the world, I can’t help but be awestruck and humbled by the many ways I have experienced God’s global church the last 30 days.
As often occurs when we truly sit back and ponder the meaning of God’s love, grace, and mercy in our lives, words are hard to come by and experiences difficult to capture and convey in a way that truly reveres our Father. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to share.
Earlier this year, participants and staff of the Flight Program had the opportunity to participate in a Haiti mission trip. They took care of the needs of orphanage children and spent time playing, coloring, writing letters to sponsors, opening gifts, making bracelets and assisting the nursing staff with the kids’ annual physicals. They stayed very busy in the hot, muggy weather! Along with working with the children, Flight participants had the opportunity to work alongside other missions team members in a variety of ways. They assisted the nurses, worked with the builders and even went door-to-door in a tent city to hand out supplies and pray with families. The Flight participants were moved outside of their comfort zones and, through that process, learned a lot about themselves. They learned how strong, resilient and capable they are. They left a lasting effect on Haiti and with the kids of the orphanages, and Haiti left a lasting impact on all of them. One of the participants shared about his experience: